Over the centuries, tea connoseurs in China have compiled lists of their favourite and highest quality teas. These lists have been compiled, edited and changed, but as yet there is no complete standard list, although the most common 10 are presented here.
Xihu Longjing, or West Lake Dragon Well is pretty much always number 1. It is a green tea with a rich, nutty taste that is grown on the mountains around West Lake, in Hangzhou city, eastern China. The tea leaves have a unique flat appearance and are crumbly in the fingers.
Huang Shan Mao Feng, or Yellow Mountain Furry Peak is grown on Huang Shan, a beautiful mountain in Anhui, central China, which is famous for having many famous tea varieties grown here. Mao Feng is a much lighter tea than Long Jing with a more delicate flavour. The tea has a very slightly smoky aroma.
Taiping Houkui, is a tea which is grown on Lake Taiping (ultimate peace), in Huang Shan. It is unusual in that the leaves are unusually large and long. It has a rich flavour and can be brewed up to 8 times, unique among green teas.
Qi Men Hong Cha, is a black tea (red tea in Chinese), which is from Qimen, a village close to Huang Shan. It has a rich, almost brandy like flavour and is good for warming the body in cold winters.
Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun is a delicate green tea with a white fur on it that is grown on the mountains at the side of Lake Tai, near Suzhou in eastern China. Suzhou is a very cultured city, in ancient times it was home to many rich merchants and scholars and the area has many beautiful canal towns.
Anxi Tieguanyin, is known as the Iron Buddha of Compassion and is a rich, intense wulong grown in Anxi in Fujian province, southeast China. The area has many varieties of wulong and black teas and has a unique culture and dialect. Tieguanyin was believed to have been created when a farmer found an abandoned shrine to the female Buddha, Guan Yin, who came to him in a dream and told him if he restored the shrine, he would be rewarded. So after he cleaned it up he found tea plants growing at the foot of the shrine. Another story talks of how buddhist monks trained monkeys to climb the mountains and pick the tea from the sides of cliffs.
Da Hong Pao, or Big Red Robe is a black tea from the Wuyi mountain range in Fujian. Legend has it a Ming dynasty emperors mother was sick and this tea cured her, so the emperor covered the tea plants in red robes, three of the original plants survive today and are highly venerated.
Wuyi Yan Cha is a smoked tea that comes from the same mountain range. It has a unique smoky flavour to it as the tea is flavoured with the smoke from the local pine trees.
Pu Er Cha is a unique tea from Yunnan in the far southwest of China on the borders of Burma and Laos. It is unique in that the tea species is a larger leaf variety that is often grown wildly and many of the plants are hundreds of years old. The area is mostly inhabited by ethnic minorities, hilltribes with a very different culture and language to the majority Han Chinese. Pu Er tea is fermented and processed, often into bricks or cakes, then can be aged for many years to improve flavour. There are 2 varieties, Sheng Cha, which is unprocessed and green, or Shou Cha, which is processed black tea.
Junshan Yinzhen or Gentleman Mountain Silver Needle is a yellow tea from Hunan province. Yellow tea is similar to green, except they are given a longer drying phase, allowing the leaves to yellow slightly. It was the preferred tea of Chairman Mao, whose home province this tea originates. Hunan is in south-central China and has a diverse climate, with many mountaineous regions.